New Shooter's Journey - Fundamentals of USPSA Stoeger Class Review

By Travis Johnson


I recently attended a great competition style shooting class instructed by Ben Stoeger, a world champion production class shooter. This class was a fundamentals class for practical pistol shooting in USPSA and geared toward improving your performance in competition. Although certain things are emphasized differently in competition style training than in more defensive and tactics oriented training, all the fundamentals of marksmanship still apply. As I hope to continue pushing forward in my competitive shooting, I thought this would be an awesome chance to learn from one of the best competition pistol shooters in the world.

Fundamentals, Accuracy, and a Wakeup call…

This class involved alternating between shooting a USPSA style stage and shooting focused drills that broke down different skills utilized during a typical stage. We began by running the stage cold with no instruction in order to get a sense of where we stand and provide a starting point to based our progress on. After going through the drill again with some additional critiquing, we jumped over to working on Fundamentals. Working on fundamentals started with shooting a standard USPSA style silhouette target with six rounds at 5 yards and working back to 20 yards. The objective of this drill was to implement proper fundamentals, shooting as quickly as you can, as accurately as you can. More specifically, this meant at 5 yards we were to be shooting as fast as the gun could cycle with the goal of shooting the "A" out of the A Zone, not just keeping them in the A Zone. As we moved further out to 10, 15, and 20 yards the objective remained the same. The only thing that should change as we move further out is the time it takes us confirm our sights. This was an excellent drill, providing a significant wakeup call, that highlighted a couple major issues in my shooting. Although, I have been making some great improvements in my overall shooting ability, when focusing in on accuracy, i am making still making some crippling mistakes. The two main problems I was having were over-gripping the gun with my firing hand, causing the rounds to drop low by pushing into the gun, and the second problem was not getting a proper sight alignment before shooting. In addition to these problems I also noticed some issues with my trigger management and not achieving a smooth trigger pull straight back, causing my shots spread out more as i went further back from the target. We built upon this drill by adding in pairs of shots. Instead of shooting 6 individual shots, we shot 3 pairs of shots as you would in most USPSA matches. Again, we shot from 5 yards, moving out to 20 yards with the focus being as fast and accurately as possible. This was another good exercise, in which i recognized the same issues i had seen shooting the previous drill, but was now also able to see how those problems materialized when shooting pairs at various distances. After a few more standard drills emphasizing fundamentals, we jumped into breaking down different parts of shooting a USPSA style stage.

Breaking Down the Steps of Shooting a Stage

On one bay we had a common USPSA style stage set up, and on the other bay, we set up 3 separate groups of targets in which we used to focus on a specific aspect of shooting a competition style stage. First, we focused on target transitions, shooting 3-5 targets at varying distance from a single position. After a group of us ran through this drill a few times focusing on improving our transitions, we alternated back to the stage, and ran through it again thinking about our transitions and seeing how this improved from our previous run. We spent much of the remainder of the day in this same routine, next working on moving between shooting positions and getting into position. When getting into position, I learned to get the gun up and out before I get into position, so that by the time I am on target I am immediately ready to fire. This made a huge difference in my stage runs later in the day, cutting several seconds off my time and achieving better hits. When moving between positions, the other key thing I learned, was to stay low and wide when moving and when getting into your next position, rather than getting into position and standing straight back up. This allows for greater stability, mobility, and ability to power out of a position.


By the end of the day, although still having a list of things needing improvement, I had made substantial gains in my stage performance, shaving nearly half the time off from my original run while achieving more accurate hits. My key takeaway from this class was that I need to spend a lot more time honing my fundamentals and focusing much more on accuracy in my training. In coming weeks, I plan to really focus on improving my training around bettering my fundamentals and improving my consistency. I then plan to jump into a couple more USPSA matches before the end of the year and see what sort of progress I can make.

Article By Travis Johnson
Shooter's Journey
Travis has made the decision to not just be proficient with firearms, but to get as good as possible. His goal is to show you the process and document his journey through training and classes he attends.